EAST LANSING, Mich. — After 135 years of Michigan State baseball, the Spartan team played under lights for the first time this season, introducing a true ‘Friday Night Lights’ atmosphere, more public events and improved conditions for student-athletes.
An anonymous donation of $1.4 million from an MSU alum led to the installation of permanent lights at McLane Stadium at Kobs Field and Secchia Stadium, homes of Spartan baseball and softball, respectively. They are the same caliber LED lights as the ones used at DeMartin Stadium, the Breslin Center and Spartan Stadium.
“We’ve been working on it for a long time. I think, again, it shows the commitment from our Athletic Department and our Athletic Director Bill Beekman, Greg Ianni and our facilities people that we’re moving forward; we’re continuing to improve and making a commitment to moving our program forward, which is really important when we talk about recruiting. We want to show guys we are always moving forward, and I think we’ve done that here,” MSU baseball head coach Jake Boss Jr. said. “I’ve got a lot more ideas but the lights is something that I think again shows that we’re moving in the right direction here. It’s just a different atmosphere and environment here tonight. We saw it with soccer in the fall, the air is a little more electric for football games at night, and I think the same is here - when we get a chance to play at night in a beautiful setting, a beautiful facility. It’s just a different feeling.”
The Spartan baseball team played its first home game under the lights on April 5 at McLane Stadium at Kobs Field against Indiana State, christening the lights in grand fashion with a 1-0 walk-off win in the bottom of the 10th inning, and as the team dog-piled on the infield to celebrate, the lights flashed to join in on the celebration.
“It was a big one. I think you always remember the first one,” Boss said about the impact of Friday’s first night game at MSU as one of his most memorable wins. “We had Nolan Moody here to throw out the first pitch and he was pitcher for our first win at home when we first got here. Again, you only get the chance to play the first night game in school history one time. We’ve been playing baseball here for 135 years, and it’s something that has never been done and never will be done again. Again, it’s about creating memories for our guys, creating opportunities for our guys and putting them in positions to be successful and they were tonight so I’m proud of them.”
The memorable night made an impact on the players as well.
“It’s the only time that it will happen so I’m honored to be the ones for the first-time ever to play a night game at Michigan State,” sophomore pitcher Mason Erla said, who had a career outing with 9.0 innings pitched, not allowing a run and striking out six. “It’s just really special; I’ll always remember this moment and it just makes it sweeter that we won.”
Senior catcher Nic Lacayo had the suicide squeeze bunt that drove in fellow senior Royce Ando, with the winning run in the bottom of the 10th and the lights will leave a lasting impression on Lacayo.
“It was awesome knowing that this was the first night game and it’s going to go down in history,” Lacayo said. “I’m honored that I got to start the first night game in school history, and it’s awesome that we played well and we won. It was a great night.”
From a logistics perspective, the lights will allow games with extra innings to finish and delays to be minimal when it rains or weather is poor.
“The Western Michigan game was a good example, even though the sun was out, it was getting close to 6:30 p.m. and the game was getting close ending,” Boss said about the game vs. WMU on March 27. “If we would have gone into extra innings now then we would have been in a race against the sun.”
The atmosphere is exciting for the young and old alike on the MSU baseball team.
“When a young baseball player grows up it’s something you want to do, play under the lights,” said senior outfielder Dan Chmielewski. “You see movies of people playing under the lights and big players playing under the lights and it’s something you dream about for a long time, so it’s cool to bring that experience here.”
Later games will give players more flexibility with their schedules.
“I think it gives us more free time during the day, maybe get a second in to relax after classes and get your mind ready for baseball,” said Chmielewski. “In the fall, when the team starts practicing next year, it will help us spread out the days and use more time to spread everything out.”
The lights add a heavier night game schedule, with MSU baseball hosting nine home games starting at 5 p.m. or later. Spartan softball will host seven evening games.
Freshman outfielder Zaid Walker is looking forward to playing baseball under the lights for the next three years.
“It’ll add more excitement to our schedule, Friday night lights is always a big thing so I feel like we will be more excited to play,” said Walker. “We’ve got class and team meal, so a later start will be nice so we can do things in-between like rest, eat, stuff like that.”
MSU will have the first baseball and softball teams in the Big Ten with this type of lighting.
“Just the atmosphere is different at night and so wherever we go when we play at night, there is a little more electricity in the air no pun intended,” said Boss.
In staying true to MSU’s green attitude, according the University’s Infrastructure and Planning Facilities, the use of LED lighting will also result in a 50% energy savings when compared to a traditional field lighting fixture.
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